[Column] David Christie: Systems resilience in times of unprecedented disruption
In the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, systems resilience is being tested like never before. IT and business leaders must ensure that their organisations can continue to operate through this unprecedented disruption by quickly addressing the stability of critical business processes and underlying systems.
Systems resilience describes a system's ability to operate during a major disruption or crisis, with minimal impact on critical business and operational processes. This means preventing outages, mitigating their impact, or recovering from them. Our definition of systems includes applications, architecture, data, cloud, infrastructure and network.
The immediate challenge: business continuity
Companies of every size are experiencing a great strain on their systems. But most companies, based on our research, are already starting with a significant gap in systems resilience. The leaders today and those who act quickly to address the immediate challenge will successfully navigate the crisis and emerge stronger.
However, only a small minority of companies—the top 10 percent— have cracked the code on systems resilience, according to Accenture's Future Systems research survey of 8,300 companies conducted before the COVID-19 crisis. For the rest, it is crucial to understand and address systems vulnerabilities. The current crisis only accentuates the need to take swift and informed action.
CIOs and IT leaders play a central role in ensuring their organisations can continue to operate through disruption, by taking the following steps in the first 72-hours:
Establish a lean governance structure with representation from business and technology for dynamic prioritisation and decision making.
Create an empowered resilience response team that immediately mobilises resources to focus on business continuity in critical areas.
Proactively identify vulnerabilities and quick wins to address current challenges using toolkits such as the Accenture Systems Resilience Diagnostic.
Actions to take now
We have defined six key resilience building blocks that will enable a quick and reliable response to critical system vulnerabilities.
Elastic Digital Workplace: Protect your people and your productivity: Elastic Digital Workplaces unlock a wealth of opportunities for business leaders to improve resilience, including avoiding business disruption and potential revenue loss. Many organisations are enabling their workforce to work remotely from home, often overnight. To be successful, this requires a new work culture, technologies, communications and policies to be implemented at extraordinary speed and scale.
Hyper Automation: Mitigate the impact of systems disruption, free up human resource capacity and streamline IT workforce management: Hyper automation accelerates a company's existing automation investments to make systems more resilient. It does so by eliminating application and infrastructure bottlenecks and freeing up human resources to focus on higher priority issues. During a pandemic, automation can also help track the location, safety and productivity of all resources as part of an overall business continuity plan.
Architecture & Performance: Engineering Quickly resolve critical systems availability and performance issues: Architecture and performance engineering can help improve systems resilience by rapidly scaling applications and resolving performance constraints. When critical systems are under stress, it is important to identify root causes of degradation and execute a "get well" plan to remediate as fast as possible without causing new issues.
Cloud Acceleration & Optimisation: Manage risk, deploy instant innovation and optimise cloud performance and cost: Cloud can make companies resilient in the short term by navigating through extreme surges or drops in demand. For example, retailers like Carrefour have been confronted with 300 percent increases in the usual demand for digital commerce. Cloud also enables deployment of instant innovation and alignment of technology costs to rapid fluctuations in demand.
Service Continuity: Flex to support critical in-flight services or deliver new IT projects: Skilled resources with institutional knowledge of business processes and specific technology expertise are critical for business resilience. In times of crisis, companies need service continuity to execute critical in-flight projects or maintain key applications and infrastructure. When COVID-19 mobility restrictions were put in place, one Fortune 100 bank faced a 60 percent IT resource gap—putting systems supporting their digital business at significant risk.
Cybersecurity: Secure your customers, people and systems wherever they are: In a global crisis, resilient systems must be ready to counter the bad actors who will inevitably seek to take advantage. In early March, the European Central Bank published a warning to financial services organisations about a spike in financial cyberfraud related to the Coronavirus. Meanwhile, hackers posing as the World Health Organisation and the US Centres for Disease Control are already using Coronavirus in phishing attacks. While moving quickly to enable the remote workforce, it is very important to address the right security protocols and solutions to mitigate risk.